On trial: The line of questioning in sexual assault court cases

We've come a long way since the "she-was-asking-for-it" defence. But now an Alberta judge has had his verdict overturned for going too far the other way. He intervened to stop questions that seemed out of bounds. But the accused says he was denied a fair trial because of it....
The Criminal Trial Lawyers Association and the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association are speaking out about the impending cancellation of a rehabilitation program for sex offenders. (Supplied)
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We've come a long way since the "she-was-asking-for-it" defence. But now an Alberta judge has had his verdict overturned for going too far the other way. He intervened to stop questions that seemed out of bounds. But the accused says he was denied a fair trial because of it.

When Jill Amery took the stand in 2003, to testify against the man who sexually assaulted her, she found herself under attack again. The defense attorney she was facing asked question after question that seemed to have nothing to do with the assault at hand. 

Now, fast forward a decade to 2013, and an Alberta courtroom where a very different scene played out. There's another woman on the stand, but this time the trial judge goes out of his way to shut down that line of questioning.

So when the defence council launched into questions about how much alcohol and marijuana the woman had consumed that night; whether she'd been flirting with the man charged, or even wearing a bra.... the judge intervened.

But now Alberta's Court of Appeal says the judge went too far, and prevented the accused from getting a fair trial... and this month, the conviction was overturned.

  • Pamela Crossis a feminist lawyer who has worked on issues surrounding violence against women for more than 20 years. She was in Toronto.

  • Solomon Friedman is a defence lawyer and a partner at Edelson Clifford D'Angelo Friedman in Ottawa.

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This segment was produced by The Current's Gord Westmacott.

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